Selected Correspondence Peter
RESPONDENT: I have just taken your lead and purchased my own computer... I want to write down my story... but I don’t know how it will unfold as yet... essentially it will be for myself... or should that be for the demise of myself ...???
PETER: I do find it odd that I now write as a hobby given that it was never an interest, I was not a great reader of books and struggled with English at school. I always thought that those who wrote and taught were not necessarily those who did things well. I chose the doing things well path but it is delightful to mix the skills these days. I remember buying the computer and setting it up and wondering what I was doing and more particularly how and where to start. So I took a note pad out to the balcony with a cup of coffee and sat down .... ‘As I sit on the balcony of our small flat contemplating life, I am moved to start writing my story.’ ... and away it went.
It proved to be an amazing introspective process ... to see that all ‘I’ am is nothing more than the sum total of the beliefs, morals, ethics and psittacisms that I had been instilled with since birth. To see that all ‘I’ am is automaton from a social and genetic assembly line, both fettered and fated to be malicious and sorrowful, is such a blow to one’s pride. But naiveté and genuine intent produces such an honesty that one finds oneself gladly ‘spilling the beans’, so to speak. To conduct a review of one’s history, one’s actions, thoughts and feelings in the light of being ensconced and trapped within the Human Condition is an extraordinary ‘inner’ journey that beats any other form of therapy hands down. One literally puts oneself under a microscope and amazing discoveries are there for the making – things one was avoiding, things one was ignorant of, things one dared not to look at, things no one had told you, things that were completely different from what you assumed and believed to be so. This is the very business of an actualist – it is only by making this ‘inner’ journey of discovery by oneself, for oneself, that one is able to become free from belief. You get to find out what you are as distinct from ‘who’ you think and feel yourself to be – the ‘who’ that others and blind nature have programmed you to be.
I particularly remember writing of my spiritual years and making discovery after discovery that literally shocked me to my core. Events that I had doubts or misgivings about at the time became crystal clear – insights and realizations came clanging along, one after the other. One that particularly sticks in my memory was of being with thousands of other disciples in a hall in India shouting ‘Yah Hoo’ to an empty chair where a dead God-man, ‘my’ Master, had sat. The Sacred Chair where He last sat – the symbolic equivalent of the Cross for Christians. I had had a peak experience at the time – a brief moment of startling clarity – and saw the stupidity and desperation of my situation, and of the whole Master-disciple business in general, and yet it still took me years to act on the realization and get out of spiritual world. It was only by meeting Richard that I finally garnered the confidence to go all the way.
Writing my Journal was excellent in aiding and abetting a Virtual Freedom. The realizations about, and knowledge of, the Human Condition in action, both in others and myself, was liberating to the extent that a virtual freedom from the Human Condition was possible. ‘One establishes a firm and stable base camp from which to launch the final assault’ was how I once described Virtual Freedom.
Methinks you are about to launch yourself on the adventure of a lifetime. It’s a fascinating business being a human being. It never ceases to amaze me.
PETER: What method are you talking about, what results have you achieved,
RESPONDENT: Ok. Lets start with simple physical task examples. I am better at living now than I have ever been before in any number of these tasks however the certainty accompanying such expertise comes with the gradual measurement and incremental improvement clearly observed in everyday normal life situations compared against my aims. How well I communicate with you may depend on my criteria of being understood or by how well I type and spell and form grammatical syntax, etc. So far I seem to score very poorly on all counts. I may also measure my performance by how emotional I am during and after a task, and so on and on until I have improved.
PETER: Perhaps a few practical examples, relating to specific incidents, would serve to communicate what you mean. As you have reported them, your results do appear a bit woolly and nebulous and could be read as an exercise in ‘self’-improvement and not ‘self’-immolation.
I spent years on the spiritual path becoming more holy and more superior, ‘being in the world, but not of it’, etc., so I know the ethereal nature of the spiritual path very well. The reason I wrote my journal was both to explain the falsehoods and failures of the spiritual path and to trumpet the practical, down-to-earth benefits of pursuing actualism. As such, one of the core themes of the Journal was my success in finally being able to live with at least one other person in peace and harmony, certainly the most difficult of task for any human being to accomplish, be they normal or spiritual. It is these practical, very pragmatic examples of ‘improvement’ that give authenticity to what otherwise can be misinterpreted as nice-sounding wordiness or misconstrued as another rehashed form of spiritualism.
Spiritualism only offers the feeling of ‘we are all one’, while in fact each Guru, and his or her followers, are separate and competitive. Spiritualism only offers the feeling of harmlessness while in fact actualizing peace on earth is not on any spiritual agenda. Spiritualism only offers the feeling of happiness, but only if one goes ‘inside’ and dissociates from the world of people, things and events. An actualist, however, is vitally interested in actualizing happiness and harmlessness and not just imagining it as a fickle and illusionary inner feeling or ‘realizing’ it as an aggrandized altered state of consciousness.
For an actualist the proof that the method works is to be found by a demonstrable lack of malice and sorrow in the robust and fully committed living in the world of people, things and events. Do I get pissed off at other drivers when driving? Do I get moody around my partner? Am I 100% committed to living with my partner? Am I avoiding intimacy? Am I affected by the weather? Do I bitch about, or blame, other people for my moods and emotions? Am I affected by other people’s moods? What makes me angry and why? An actualist looks for pragmatic answers and practical evidence of change – not as an inner feeling but as a demonstrable fact.
Alan said it well recently when he was involved with setting up his computer system in his new house. Despite all the protocols and pit-falls, networks and nuisances, set-ups and setbacks, he found that he accomplished the task without the usual anger and frustration that would have been present had he not been practicing actualism for a goodly time.
RESPONDENT: By the asking of the question each moment again ‘how am I experiencing this moment of being alive’, (as I might ask when learning to drive a car by asking ‘how relaxed am I while driving in this moment of being alive?) I make ‘my’ ‘purpose’ and ‘my’ ‘method’ more in the moment each time again until the two merge. I have found that by practice, keen observation born of the repetitious asking of ‘myself’, ‘I’ can improve more quickly than by not asking any questions until I am virtually free of ‘purpose’, ‘method’ and ‘myself’.
PETER: Why do you imagine that you will become virtually free of ‘purpose’ before you are actually free of malice and sorrow, assuming that this is your purpose? It does sound a bit like the spiritual practice of acceptance to me.
Why do you imagine you will be virtually free of ‘method’ before you are actually free of malice and sorrow, assuming the method is what makes you virtually free of malice and sorrow? It does sound a bit like Van Morrison’s ‘No Guru, no method, no teacher’ popular spiritualism to me.
As for improving until you are virtually free of ‘myself’, you would have to provide some personal anecdotal evidence of both the inevitable turmoil that the process of becoming virtually free produces and of the tangible down-to-earth successes it produces, otherwise it sounds a bit like the usual spiritual delusion to me.
Spiritualism has a long, long tradition of ambiguous wordiness solely devoted to promulgating ‘self’-indulgent feelings, imaginary states and ever-promised but never-delivered outcomes. T’would be a waste to miss the opportunity that the actualism method offers by remaining ensnared in this archaic tradition of double-speak.
RESPONDENT: I am attracted to actualism because it offers a sharing of opinion and practical solutions to real problems. You communicate very well.
PETER: Sharing of opinions is the normal way of communicating, whereas what I am communicating are facts, empirical evidence and experience based upon my intensive investigations of the Human Condition, both as it is universally manifest and as it is socially and instinctually programmed as ‘me’. When I came across Richard it was not a sharing of opinion but a communication based upon me learning as much as I could from him. I very quickly realized that my opinions were generally the opinions of others – my father’s or my peers’ generally. What came trotting out of my mouth was what I believed, what I had taken to be true, what I had assumed was right, what I had taken on board but never bothered to question. What I discovered about Richard was that he had questioned everything human beings held dear and that he ruthlessly pursued the facts of what it is to be an aware thinking human being.
The aim of this mailing list is to lift our communication above the usual stilted sharing of opinions, beliefs and psittacisms that passes for normal or spiritual communication.
RESPONDENT: I would appreciate, too, your opinion on why I ‘sound Spiritual’ ... I don’t doubt your obvious expertise in this field but would appreciate specific examples, if possible. I do not wish to be ruled by ancient wisdoms, truths etc. My inherent common sense has always steered me away from the tried and failed logic of my family and ancestors.
PETER: I have commented repeatedly about specific points in your posts that sounded spiritual to me and I see no point in going over old ground, ad nauseam. In your last post you said – ‘I am not at all interested in the spiritual’ and I don’t doubt you at all. I would only say that not being interested is not the same thing as actively investigating your spiritual conditioning, be it Eastern and Western or both, such that you become free of it. As an example, what you said in full was ‘I am not at all interested in the spiritual (though I have gotten too much into my head at times)’ which indicates a typical spiritual viewpoint of what ‘being spiritual’ is.
The current New Dark Age spiritualism can be seen generally as having two broad paths or approaches.
There is the right thinking/being the watcher approach, whereby thinking – or wrong thinking to be accurate – is deemed to be the source of all evil and one develops a new identity as an aloof right thinker. This path is typified by J. Krishnamurti’s teachings and most of Buddhism.
The other is the more emotive heart approach where any and all thinking is derided and one forms a new identity as a truly loving being. This path is typified by devotee religions such as Rajneeshism, various forms of Hinduism, Sufism, etc.
To become free of the real world and the spiritual world requires an active deprogramming of all of the opinions, beliefs, morals, ethics and automatic instinctual reactions that have been programmed into your brain. To do this requires a burning curiosity and an intense observation and investigation of this programming, in you, in action – in short you need to develop a vital interest in what it is to be spiritual and how it manifests in yourself.
You need to become interested in what makes you ‘tick’ – what makes you moody, worried, angry, sad, lonely, upset, peeved, melancholy, dissociated, lacklustre, bored, remote, etc. if you at all aspire to becoming actually free of being continually run by these emotions.
RESPONDENT: Pointing out wrong thinking and watching the awakening that accompanies realization is great sport also.
PETER: My experience of God-men is that they like to ensnare others into loosening their clinging to so-called wrong thinking and twist them into adopting Right thinking solely in order that they can strut their own humble Self-Righteousness in return for admiration, gratitude, love and veneration.
RESPONDENT: *deep bow* Thank you for sharing.
PETER: It’s a pleasure to be able to pass on my experiences of 17 years on the spiritual path.
The other day I came across a woman who was just starting on the spiritual path and who was still shell-shocked at just having visited India for the first time. It struck me at the time, after 17 years of searching for peace and happiness on the spiritual path, how serendipitous it was to have come across an ex-God-man who had discovered something far superior to the hallowed state of Enlightenment – an actual down-to-earth freedom and not a fear-driven escape into an inner spiritual fantasy-land.
This serendipitous event has given me the opportunity to contribute to the de-bunking of the shams and scams of the utterly ‘Self’-centred spiritual path by writing of my experience and making it freely available for others to peruse. And then, on top of that, I get to write of my experience and expertise in utilizing the actualism method to become actually free of the human condition.
Where I come from, sharing is making your experience and expertise freely available for others who are interested – to hide nothing, to sweep nothing under the table.
For a normal person sharing means sharing their feelings of malice and sorrow – what is commonly known as having a gossip, having a whinge, having a bitch, having a heart to heart, connecting, giving support, being honest, etc.
RESPONDENT to Richard: Thank you for your response. After reading No 59’s commentary and starting to pay attention to your exchanges with No 86, I had grown concerned that might be making a categorical statement on a topic which, as far as I understand, can only be theoretical. My concern is not so great having read your response to my previous email, eg from your unwillingness to be drawn into a theoretical discussion, and your statement of an entirely different gist to the one I was interpreting from your diary. But in the quote below, you have stated that it was an experiential determination, which I am interested in exploring if you are willing.
( Respondent to Richard 9.8.2005).
PETER: I thought to make a comment on what seems to be a reoccurring theme on this mailing list – the fourth word on the first page of the Actual Freedom website. Given that the first two words are ‘Actual Freedom’ followed by ‘A new and non-spiritual, down-to earth freedom’ the word that many people seem to object to is the word ‘new’.
When I first came across Richard I quite naturally associated what he was saying with what I had known before – after all the human condition has an inherent duality, either the meaning of life is to be found in material pursuits or the meaning of life is to be found in spiritual pursuits. After a few months of listening and reading however, I eventually twigged to the fact that what Richard was talking about was diametrically opposite to what all of the spiritual teachers were teaching and the world that Richard was living in was diametrically opposite to the imaginary world that all of the revered Enlightened Beings felt themselves to be living in.
Previously to meeting Richard I had spent 17 years on the spiritual path and was no novice to the spiritual world. My experience wasn’t merely intellectual – my experience was lived experience – I had after all turned my back on the real world and had fully immersed myself in the spiritual world, even to the point of wearing the robes and living in spiritual communes. The experience of meeting and talking with Richard was 180 degrees opposite to the meetings and discussions I had with any of the spiritual teachers or revered masters I had met in my spiritual years – no psychic power plays, no pompous air of superiority and/or feigned humility, on the contrary, a genuine willingness and an ability to provide clear and consistent answers to any questions I raised and above all, an utter down-to-earthness that was refreshing to say the least.
So to sum up, at this stage I had the intellectual understanding that actualism was utterly non-spiritual – one only needs to read what Richard writes and take the words at face value to establish this as a prima face case – but I also had first hand experience that there was not a skerrick of spiritualism in Richard himself and I suspect that the video conversations will enable others to make their own judgement as to the latter point. The point I am making is that even before I recalled having had a pure consciousness experience I had satisfied myself that an actual freedom from the human condition was indeed non-spiritual, which in turn meant that it was brand new – there being no evidence whatsoever of it ever having being a lived experience in any of spiritual teachings, any of the ancient folklores or any of the secular consciousness studies.
One of the most telling experiences that actualism – the method by which Richard became actually free from the human condition – is brand new to human experience were the psychic ‘warning signs’ I had when deciding to devote my life to becoming happy and harmless. I have written about it before but it was as though I was entering a dark tunnel that had a big warning sign saying ‘DO NOT ENTER HERE’ written over it. I knew that entering this path would be the end of ‘me’ and I also knew this was a path that only Richard had trodden before – although by a somewhat circuitous route. This experience is diametrically opposite to the entry to the spiritual path with its welcoming sign, its feel good seductive lure, the welcoming arms of others, the feeling of belonging and of being specially chosen, not to mention the promise of the fame and the glory of Self-aggrandizement awaiting at the other end.
The other experiential evidence I had of the fact that actualism is diametrically opposite to spiritualism is that not only were there psychic warning signs about doing something so radical as devoting my life to becoming happy and harmless but that there were also actual and psychic (as in emotionally-transmitted) warnings from those who had a vested interest in spiritualism telling me not to go down this path under any circumstances. Not only did I have a few direct warnings from teachers and practitioners of spiritualism but I also had a few psychic visitations whilst sleeping warning me off my intended course of action. The other issue that I had to contend with at the time was the very real issue that spiritualists have a long and gory history of dealing with and disposing of heretics in most gruesome ways, in other words the psychic vibes I perceived had the backing of very real acts of retribution should I dare to openly turn my back on spiritualism and be so bold as to blithely head off in the opposite direction.
All of the events I am recalling happened fairly early on and my recollection of a substantial pure consciousness experience that I had some 10 years earlier combined with PCEs I had subsequent to taking up actualism meant that the psychic warning experiences soon became weaker and weaker – my experience is that once you set off on the actualism path with gusto, the fears that you first encounter are rapidly overcome by the thrill and excitement of the many discoveries that soon unfold.
One event that happened about 3 or 4 years ago again confronted me with the fact that nobody but Richard – ‘Richard’ the identity, not Richard the flesh and blood body sans identity – had ever become actually free of the human condition. I awoke one morning amazed to find myself in the fairy-tale like perfection that this actual world is and it being so early I headed off for a stroll down to the beach. In the early dawning light I sat down on a grassy bank overlooking the ocean and all of a sudden realized that if ‘I’ were to die it would literally be like disappearing over the horizon, never ever to be seen or heard of again – in short, ‘I’ would go into oblivion and not only that but no one would miss ‘me’. I then became aware that there were tentacles holding ‘me’ back from doing so and that these tentacles were the many psychic tentacles that bound ‘me’ to Humanity at large. This experience once again confirmed for me that actualism is brand new to human experience because such an oblivion is not only the end of ‘me’ as a ‘being’ but it also means the end of the eons-old world-wide fantasy of ‘me’ as a spiritual ‘Being’.
Well that’s about it. I just thought to pass on my experience that it is possible for an identity to experientially know that an actual freedom from the human condition is brand new to human experience. Any identity who explores the human psyche deeply enough can experience not only the psychic barriers and warning signs that have no doubt prevented others from treading this path before but ‘he’ or ‘she’ can also verify for themselves that, despite the fact that everybody has had glimpses of the perfection and purity of the actual world, there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone prior to Richard has managed to become actually free from the human condition in toto.
Experiential information about the human psyche can only be had by observing the human psyche in action, in oneself, as one’s ‘self’ – which is precisely what the actualism method involves.
The trick to being able to make such observations is to dare to go beyond the psychic warnings that attempt to deter you from doing so – after all, it stands to reason that you can’t study something that you are scared to look at.
PETER: The point I am making is that even before I recalled having had a pure consciousness experience I had satisfied myself that an actual freedom from the human condition was indeed non-spiritual, which in turn meant that it was brand new – there being no evidence whatsoever of it ever having being a lived experience in any of spiritual teachings, any of the ancient folklores or any of the secular consciousness studies.
RESPONDENT: With this kind of statement I have no issue – that you consider there to be no evidence of it ever having been lived before.
PETER: Again it is not a matter that I ‘consider’ there to be no evidence of it ever having been lived before – there *is* no evidence of it having been lived before. Can you provide any evidence of it having been lived before, let alone having been spoken about or written about before? Have the hundreds of correspondents, many of whom who experts in spiritual teachings, philosophical hypothesises and psychological theories, who claimed there was evidence that it has been lived before provided any evidence of it having been lived before? If somebody does come up with the evidence, then that is a different matter but until then …
RESPONDENT: Well I haven’t decisively concluded that Bernadette Roberts being actually free as I am yet to read her books. I have only read the material available on the web and some passages sent me by Vicky. But they were sufficient for me to keep the topic open in my mind that she may be actually free. I of course have read most if not all the material on the Actual Freedom site about BR. It did not convince me. That’s why I say that you consider there to be no evidence. I have read what I consider to be preliminary evidence. Unfortunately I will not be able to examine her books for a couple of months but after that I will let you know if I have changed my mind :)
PETER: I see. You do realize that what you are saying is that I should ‘consider’ there to be no evidence rather than say that there is no evidence because you choose to remain open to the possibility that someone else might be actually free from the human condition but that you are not quite sure whether or not she is but she might be and that you will let me know in a couple of months time.
Why you need to wait a couple of months before putting the evidence on the table is beyond me – all I needed to do was type her name into Google and within minutes I came up with many quotations that make it perfectly obvious that she is living in an altered state of consciousness of the spiritual ilk and that she is no way actually free of the human condition in toto.
On many occasions people have told me that actualism is similar to spiritualism and whenever I have questioned them it soon became clear that they read what is on offer in actualism looking for the similarities to spiritualism whilst turning a blind eye to the obvious differences and that they in turn read what is on offer in spiritualism looking for the similarities to actualism whilst turning a blind eye to the obvious differences – which only serves to illustrate how belief and conviction prevents one from seeing the facts of the matter.
RESPONDENT: (...) And offer: I am this body and the rest is illusion.
PETER: If I take what you are saying at face value, I am left wondering how far ‘the rest is illusion’ extends? When you mentioned ‘preparing a nice breakfast, getting dressed a.s.o.’ – is the food you eat in order to sustain ‘you, this body’ also illusionary? Are the clothes you put on ‘you, this body’ illusionary clothes? Is the computer screen you are reading these words on illusionary? Are the fingers tapping on the keys of the keyboard actual, whilst the keys are an illusion? I only ask because tripping off down the path of regarding everything, and everyone else, but ‘you’ – by whatever name you label yourself – as an illusion is to risk becoming utterly and completely ‘self’-centred.
In the latter stage of my spiritual years I had an utterly ‘self’-centred altered state of consciousness – a four-hour experience whereupon ‘I’ was the very centre of a dream-like Universe. It was certainly a blissful and aggrandizing experience – if you don’t want to be here, then being ‘there’ is a great place to be. However, what made me suss about the experience was that not only did the physical world become illusionary, so did all other human beings. It was only when I became a committed actualist and became vitally interested in being here that I came to understand that such ‘self’-centred spiritual experiences are the antithesis of a ‘self’-less pure consciousness experience of the actual physical universe that all mortal flesh and blood bodies have sensually experienced at some stage in their life.
Spiritualists have, since time immemorial, made a virtue out of not wanting to be here. For an actualist, wanting to be here is a prerequisite to becoming interested in how I am experiencing this moment of being here – need I say, the only moment you can actually, as in sensately, experience being here.
RESPONDENT: Adding to that, that it takes (that is for me it still does) to have that fully integrated into the system which happens when by and by the myopic veil of hope for a better moment than this moment or the fear for a worse moment than this, is being removed which indeed is a wonderful experience. end Intermezzo.}
PETER: If you regard ‘the rest is illusion’, if that is what you are really saying, then ‘self’-centredness can indeed be a wonderful experience. What I do notice, however, from my perspective of increasingly delighting at being here is that those who regard the physical world as being illusionary do so only by stifling their emotions and disregarding their sensual experiencing.
PETER: Given that have said you welcome feedback, I’ll just round off with a comment on – ‘it seems that mental effort automatically implies a division we experience as ‘self’’. If I read you right, this supposition seems to be a hangover from Eastern religious belief wherein the ‘self’ is believed to be a thinking-self or ego-self only and a spurious feeling of freedom is gained by abandoning common sense thinking in an attempt to become a feeling-self only.
As you know by now this is old archaic thinking – superstition based on ignorance of fact and empirical observation. To suppose that one can become free of being a psychological and psychic ‘self’ without ‘mental effort’ does not make sense. After all, ‘who’ you think you are is the result of thousands of years of cultural and social programming and ‘who’ you feel you are is the end result of billions of years of the genetically-sequenced struggle for survival of life on this planet. To become free of all of this programming in order for intelligence to be freed from these brutish instinctual passions is no easy task – to abandon thinking in favour of feeling is to forsake this task in favour of ‘self’-preservation.
RESPONDENT: I’m not sure if my comment on ‘mental effort’ is a hangover from Eastern religious belief – I don’t think so since it stems from my own experience.
PETER: I don’t know what your particular social programming has been but where I live Eastern religious belief has well and truly permeated all levels of society. Western religions have absorbed many of these beliefs, rednecks spout spiritual psittacisms, schools teach that the ills of the world are due to the evils of materialism and technological inventiveness, the mind-less escapism of meditation is lauded as being the panacea of the stress of a ‘Western’ lifestyle and the popular press and the entertainment industry is awash with spiritual wisdom. Eastern religion and philosophy has gone beyond being a fashionable alternative and has become mainstream respectable. Indeed a whole industry founded on Eastern religious belief has been formed with practitioners, teachers and masters offering cures, healings, therapies, retreats, meditations, and so on.
From observation, the same seems to be the case in almost all western countries, the US included. I only need to tune into Oprah Winfrey in order to comprehend that not only has the US mainstream taken Eastern religious belief to heart but that many have done so by perverting the famed Eastern pursuit of spiritual ‘self’-aggrandizement into an equally selfish pursuit of real-world ‘self’-aggrandizement.
If you have managed to escape from all of this influence, then you start the actualism method from a different point than I did. I spent years believing much of Eastern spiritual belief, in spite of my doubts. It was only when I came across Richard that I found that there was now a third alternative to both materialism and spiritualism.
RESPONDENT: It’s true that Eastern spiritual belief has permeated the US mainstream, but for many it’s still at a rather superficial level. My programming growing up was Christian – specifically Mennonite. Mennonites are known for their anabaptism and pacifist stance. ‘Anabaptism’ being the doctrine that one should not baptize infants like the Catholics – rather wait until a person can personally accept Jesus Christ as their ‘savior.’ The pacifist stance is the more popularized trademark of being a Mennonite. I was registered a ‘co’ (conscientious objector) – which at 18 I hadn’t thought about what that meant so much, just that I was glad that I had an easy card to play to get out of going to war for my country – should that situation arise.
Anyway, I did a missionary trip to the Dominican Republic which began to open my eyes to a different world – not necessarily a different world of beliefs, but the world of a proselytizing missionary and what that required. After that experience I began to read everything I could get my hands on – both hilosophical and religious. Soon, the beliefs I had been raised with were gone – but with much struggle – since the Mennonite community is a pretty ‘tight-knit’ group (in the world, but not of the world).
Anyway, my readings over the past 10-12 years have taken me through both Western and Eastern philosophical and religious belief systems. My main source of inspiration that filtered Eastern ideas to me was Ken Wilber – a sort of Hegelian synthesizer that is trying to bring together the mystical traditions of the world – along the lines of Aldous Huxley and his ‘perennial philosophy.’ For a while, my ideas about religion and truth were taken straight from Mr Wilber, until I began to look more deeply into the traditions behind his system and found that in pretty much each case he distorted them or oversimplified in some way to fit them into his ‘system.’ Wilber is a practicing Zen Buddhist, by the way – and his ‘system’ is basically inspired by and adapted to Adi Da, Da Avabhasa, Da Free John – or whatever his name is this week.
After loosening my hold on Wilber’s system – I began studying Meher Baba’s life and writings fairly intensely. His book ‘God Speaks’ is about as metaphysical as it gets. Meher Baba is high on faith, hope, trust, belief, the authority of the God-man – etc and the limitation of the mind. Satisfying for those weary of search –but unsatisfying for those who do sometimes think for themselves.
Then just a few years ago, I flew out to see Bernadette Roberts – a Christian mystic who describes the state of ‘no-self’ she reached – which is basically unexciting and she says she ‘wouldn’t wish it on a dog.’ That is – she says there is no suffering for her now, but the transition was for her was painful. I was disappointed to find out that she was just a bit wacky – certainly not what I expected in the ‘enlightened.’ Then I was introduced to UG’s website – or I should say the website about UG. He’s more of a challenge since he claims to be anti-spiritual – there is some overlap between what he says about love and belief and emotional states of mind with actualism – but what he says ultimately gets one nowhere – by his own admission – there is no ‘way of UG.’ Anyway, this gives you a glance at my past wanderings. The only Eastern views I completely adopted for myself were those of Ken Wilber – then later Meher Baba – the others were really ‘serious interests’ which I flirted with for some time. I don’t think I ever bought it all ‘hook, line, and sinker’ since I read voraciously and was always conscious of uncertainties and doubts along the way.
I’m not sure this gives you any vital information about our current discussion, but I thought it might be time to lay some of my cards on the table.
PETER: From what you write, we seem to have had very common experiences. Both born into Western monotheistic belief, found that unsatisfactory, moved on. Both checked out Eastern polytheistic beliefs, found them unsatisfactory, moved on. Both found actualism, checked it out, liked what we read, dug in deeper.
So when you say
it does seem to have had more than a superficial influence on your life.
The reason I made the point in the first place is that is was my experience that it took me a good deal of time and effort to divest myself of all of the aspects of polytheistic beliefs I had taken on board over my years of treading the spiritual path. And, as I did so, I was astounded to discover how much these once alternative beliefs had been absorbed into mainstream life, particularly over the last half century.
The other revealing aspect of my investigations into my beliefs was that I also discovered my underlying Christian beliefs emerging as I began to peel away the layers of Eastern religious beliefs. This made me realize that in my spiritual years I had simply layered a new set of beliefs over my original beliefs – and a slightly revised set of morals and ethics layered over my original programming. (...)
PETER: In a PCE – provided you resists the atavistic temptation to start swooning in rapture at the beauty of it all or indulging in ‘self’-aggrandizing fantasies (or else it deteriorates into an ASC) – you can readily discern that the only reason you are experiencing the sensual delight and utter peacefulness of the actual world is because ‘you’ have temporarily left the stage. From this experiential realization a pure intent can arise to devote one’s life to the task of becoming happy and harmless – to actively dismantle my ‘self’, to dare to question the veracity of ‘my’ precious beliefs, to want to really come to understand both the nature and the source of the peripheral feelings of ‘self’ and sense of ‘being’ and to not stop until the process is finished and the very source of ‘me’, ‘me’ as a feeling ‘being’, is permanently eliminated, expunged.
Then, when the PCE wanes and you return to being ‘normal’ again, back in normal everyday reality, ‘you’ find yourself with something to do. ‘You’ then have a reason for being, a life goal, a task, a job, and a fascinating one at that. And I can vouch that there is no more fascinating and rewarding thing you can do with your life than to devote your life to the task of becoming happy and harmless for this is the path to actual freedom.
RESPONDENT: I find that I spend a good deal of time wanting to sort of ‘jump’ into actual freedom. In other words, it does seem ‘daunting’ at times what’s between here and now and the goal of this process – which seems to bring a kind of ‘self’-loathing – but this must be some sort of cop-out – a refusal to put forth the required effort. It’s possible that the ‘self’-loathing is related to the feeling of ‘not being here’ when I’m not feeling good – so that is probably a good area for investigation.
PETER: Yeah. Morals and ethics – the social programming that produces feelings of guilt and shame if you fail to repress or deny your feelings of malice – are part of what I came to experience as ‘the guardians at the gate’. Guardians in that they prevent you from opening the gate to investigating the brutish animal instinctual passions that each and every human being is genetically-encoded with. I only made substantive progress towards becoming harmless when I dared to allow myself to acknowledge the full extent of my instinctual passions and then to dig deep enough to experience them – to feel them in action. <snip> To feel self-loathing, shame or guilt in the face of the fact that you – along with each and every other human being – is programmed with instinctual fear, aggression, nurture and desire – through no fault of your own or anyone else – is to remain bound within the straightjacket of societal morals, ethics, values and beliefs. Anyone interested in actualism will inevitably come across this social conditioning – the ‘guardians at the gate’ – and will become aware of, and experience, the feelings this conditioning is intended to provoke.
RESPONDENT: Though the self-loathing that comes from shame and guilt is definitely present at times and something that requires detailed examination – I am actually referring to the feeling that ‘I’ don’t want to be ‘me’ anymore. In other words – a strong urge to self-immolate – being depressed at times about the human condition. I’m not really referring to ‘self-esteem’ issues here. Rather, the recognition that ‘I’ cause suffering can bring on the desire to get rid of ‘me’ –as quickly as possible. It could be compared to the resentment that can happen when a PCE is over and one is going back into the ‘real’ world. Maybe what I’m referring to would be better called ‘resenting the self’ as to distinguish it from the moral connotation of ‘self-loathing.’
PETER: I have noticed that a lot of people give themselves a hard time – they continuously berate themselves for not being good enough, etc. It’s not an infliction that I particular suffered from but Richard has noted that self-loathing is turning malice in on oneself. I don’t know if you can relate to that.
For me, one of the major hurdles I had to overcome at the start of actualism was pride and there is no greater blow to one’s feeling of pride – or pride’s alter ego, one’s spiritual humility – than to realize how gullible one has been in being a believer in fairy tales and nonsense. The other blow to my pride was that after all my years of searching I had not a clue about the human condition, let alone had I ever been really aware of, let alone understood, how ‘I’ had been programmed.
I’ve included a piece I wrote in my journal on the topic of pride as it may well be useful to any who have trod the spiritual path for a time and are now faced with having to abandon all their cherished spiritual wisdom.
RESPONDENT: I’m still processing what you said – but each time I think about the people I mentioned as atheists which you rephrased as ‘conditional’ atheists – it is at such a point that I begin to wonder whether you and I can have any productive conversation or dialogue on this topic at all.
PETER: It would obviously be impossible given your present predisposition towards me.
RESPONDENT: You say you cannot think of a single example where the ‘feeling’ of being is not also accompanied by spiritual beliefs.
PETER: And as I pointed out to No 60: meaning I cannot think of a single example where spiritual beliefs are not always accompanied by a feeling of being.
But for the sake of continuing the conversation, I understand that you are using the alternative meaning of the phrase – namely that it is possible for a person to have a feeling of being without having any spiritual beliefs.
RESPONDENT: Let’s see if I can help. 1) Me 2) No 60 3) AJ Ayer 4) Corliss Lamont 5) Stephen Weinberg 6) Paul Kurtz 7) Isaac Asimov 8) James Randi 9) Bertrand Russell 10) JL Mackie 11) Richard Dawkins. There are plenty more – these are just some that we may be mutually acquainted with in some form or another (and that I’ve read enough to be confident that they are non-spiritual (as in no spiritual beliefs) – which is why I started with this particular list.
Now, if you mean something like ‘the feeling of being always goes hand-in-hand with either spiritual belief OR not knowing for certain there is nothing spiritual in existence’ – then that is another matter entirely. Or possibly you would say that most of these people on the above list have ‘spiritual’ beliefs because most of them believe in the truth of relativity, the big bang, ‘self’ and other beliefs you might call ‘spiritual?’
PETER: You will have noticed that I made the following comment to No 60 –
In the case of the people you list above, I would ask how is it that you are ‘confident’ that they have no spiritual beliefs? Have they, for example, ever published any articles or written any books describing the process by which they have managed to free themselves from all spiritual beliefs? Have you sat down and conducted in-depth interviews with these people? You may recall that we have previously discussed this question of authenticity and verification in our conversation about atheists who believe that the physical universe is an ephemeral creation that has arisen out an underlying reality that is timeless, spaceless and formless –
And so we are back having the conversation you abandoned because you say I ‘refuse to look at the facts, or are ignorant of them, or because [I am] using words in some ill-defined way’. If you decide that you want to continue the discussion let me know, but whilst you consider your being confident (because you have read enough) that there are plenty of people who are non-spiritual (as in have no spiritual beliefs) makes it a fact then any further discussion on the matter will no doubt be unproductive.
PETER: I think it is an apt opportunity to more fully explain to you why I have said that the whole ongoing issue of the meanings of the words spiritual, atheist and materialist is a beat up.
Vineeto and I occasionally watch a television program devoted to exploring all things religious, spiritual and metaphysical and a recent show featured a debate between a priest and a spiritualist on one hand and a well-known avowed atheist and an academic secular humanist on the other. The to-ing and fro-ing went on with the priest and spiritualist holding the moral high-ground whilst the atheist and secular humanist presented reasoned arguments that spiritual belief was unnecessary, puerile and very often the cause of human conflict and animosity.
As the debate went on, the spiritualists eventually reverted to the fall-back position that spiritual belief is the only effective way to assuage feelings of sorrow and grief and they presented several heart-rendering examples of this. In a counter move the atheist immediately went into ‘life-without-God-is-jolly’ mode in order to prove that an atheist’s happiness is better than a spiritualist’s happiness-born-out-of-compassion. The presenter of the program, a spiritualist herself, then interjected, making the comment to the atheist ‘but I know that you get very depressed from time to time’ and immediately the wind went out of his sails. The debate continued on but in the end the telling point was that the spiritualists had an answer to emotional suffering (succour) and the atheists and secular humanists clearly didn’t.
The whole debate encapsulated the spiritualist vs. materialist debate – the spiritualists will always maintain the moral high-ground over the materialists because materialists have no solution to the feelings of sorrow that invariably afflict all human beings from time to time.
This is why I say that all of the discussions on this mailing list as to the meanings of the words such as spiritualist, atheist, materialist and so on are but a beat-up. Whichever side one chooses to sit on, or believes oneself to be on, or whether one sits in the middle or refuses to sit down, it is clear that neither the spiritualists nor the materialists have any workable solutions to bringing an end to human malice and sorrow. When you sit down and think about it, does not it strike you as being somewhat bizarre that all this running for cover, duck-shoving, side-stepping and re-labelling goes on on a mailing list that has been set up specifically in order to discuss a proven method of bringing an end to human malice and sorrow?
RESPONDENT: Easy is clearly not the right word. Obvious would probably be more suitable. I do have to watch my word selection in this list. ‘We’ cling to our instincts with an iron grip.
PETER: I had similar problems with words when I first came across actualism. I started to become aware how loose I was in the meaning of words but that this was generally the case in any discussions about freedom. I realized that it suited me not to question too deeply what was being said because the freedom I was seeking was a feeling-only, other-worldly experience and not a sensate-only down-to-earth experience. After writing my journal, I set about writing a glossary of common terms used in actualism, giving their dictionary definitions and an explanation of the difference between the word’s actual meaning and its varied and confusing spiritual meanings.
RESPONDENT: It’s really a substantial paradigm shift. The spiritual traditions do adhere to a the-truth-that-can-be-spoken-is-not-the-truth kind of schtick.
PETER: Not to mention that other traditional spiritual teaching – the-word-is-not-the-thing. I remember having a conversation with an ardent spiritualist in my lounge room one day and he started down the spiritual line that matter does not exist and that only spirit or energy exists. I picked up a coffee cup and said ‘Are you telling me this coffee cup doesn’t exist?’ He said something like – ‘That’s the word coffee cup, not the thing’ to which I replied ‘No, that’s the thing we call a coffee cup’. He looked at me bewildered for a second because he almost started to consider that the coffee cup might be actual, i.e. existing in fact, in this case made of the material stuff of the earth, exactly like he and I. He quickly continued on with his particular spiritual party line for a bit until I pointed to the television set and asked him what he would call that? ‘God’ he replied and the conversation was all down hill from then on.
RESPONDENT: Also, in recent years I’ve spent some time ‘exploring’ my feelings/emotions and expressing those in words is a nebulous activity at best.
PETER: Whereas in actualism it is not only vitally important to become aware of which feelings are preventing you from becoming happy and harmless but also to name the feeling in exact words. This can be quite difficult for men who in all societies have been taught to repress their feelings and particularly so for spiritual men who further imagine they have transcended their undesirable feelings and as such tend to be dismissive of actualism.
I remember when I came across actualism I saw it as the ‘get down and get dirty’ business of exploring my psyche in action as opposed to wandering around with my head in the clouds as I did for much of my spiritual years.
PETER: It is no little thing to question such ideals as pacifism – to not only understand that they fail but to also understand why they fail. It is only by thinking about why conflict is the norm within the human condition that you start to become aware of your own genetically-encoded contributions to the well-spring of malice and sorrow in the world.
This way you move from having an ideal about peace on earth to being interested in actually doing something about peace on earth – in other words, you resurrect your naiveté and take unilateral action.
RESPONDENT: Pacifism, like all belief systems, has an agenda and protocol. It’s really become clear to me that once one decides what’s good and what’s bad, that critical thinking goes out the window.
PETER: What I discovered was that the monotheistic religions tend to be more concerned with morality, with good and bad. The Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, tend to be more concerned with ethics, with right and wrong thinking. Maybe that’s why spirituality has such a strong appeal to men and intellectuals. It has certainly dominated much of the 20th Century literature, philosophy, theoretical science and thinking to an extent that is amazingly wide-ranging.
RESPONDENT: That’s the appeal of religious groups ... they’ll quite willingly take over the responsibility for your thinking. There’s a long line of people who quite willingly give up that piece of hard work.
PETER: What I discovered was that the Eastern religions were even more insidious than the monotheist religions because their adherents are encouraged not to think about the human condition, not to think about the world as-it-is – not to be at all interested about what goes on ‘outside’, as it were. The followers of Eastern religions are encouraged to ‘accept’ that the physical world is a grim reality and that the only escape is to dissociate from the inherent evil of a grim reality and go ‘inside’, where peace, tranquillity and meaning is to be found.
Over the past few years I have had occasion to have some discussions with a Buddhist and I am continuously amazed at how quickly he can assimilate anything I may happen to say about actualism into his own religious beliefs. He does not even blink an eyelid, let alone stop to think or contemplate. These interactions continue to remind me of the overwhelming power that the sense-numbing combination of belief and passion has over human thinking – so much so that this disability has been recognized in psychiatry and given the label of cognitive dissonance. The other aspect that always stands out in these discussions is that he is so totally self-centred that he has no interest whatsoever in what is happening in the world, i.e. he is so much is he concerned with maintaining his own ‘inner peace’ he doesn’t give a fig about peace on earth.
But what is most fascinating is that I can recognize myself in him, he is exactly how I was when I was trapped within the spiritual world – so convinced I was right that I was completely closed to even considering that there could be a third alternative.
RESPONDENT: The funny thing is that in my dealings with people who sign on with a religion, there’s an initial rapture as the burden of dealing with life’s issues is lifted, but it doesn’t last, and they tend to slide towards bitterness. Religion is the greatest obstacle to the human race really advancing.
PETER: I remember as a kid thinking that religion was silly, the very idea of a white-bearded God sitting on a cloud in heaven seemed really weird. What really shocked me one day was when I realized that the Eastern spiritual group I was in was nought but ‘olde time religion’ cunningly dressed up as something different. A classic example of cognitive dissonance on my part.
From that very first glimpse it took me years to painstakingly extract myself from the spiritual world and in doing so I eventually lost all my friends, all of my clients, and two relationships. To take the step from realizing to action does take both sincerity and effort and the subsequent changes always come at a cost. Needless to say, the tangible rewards for this effort – a virtual freedom from malice and sorrow in my case – far exceed whatever the ‘peace-parkers’ could imagine.
That ‘religion is the greatest obstacle’ is a spiritual-world psittacism often trotted out by spiritualists in order to separate their own spiritual-religious practices from that of the herd. And perhaps the most devious of all of the Eastern religions is Buddhism, despite the fact that Buddhists have been forced into adopting a pre-emptive defence by declaring that ‘Buddhism is not a religion’. Spiritual beliefs are a far greater obstacle than religion for those who are genuinely interested in peace on earth, in this lifetime, as this flesh and blood body.
What does separate spiritual people from materialists is that at least some of those from the West took up Eastern religious belief because they questioned the veracity and sensibility of their first religious conditioning – monotheistic religions. Having done so they have unwittingly landed themselves in an even more insidious belief system, one that scorns the worship of One God and yet encourages the followers to feel themselves to be God. However, if a spiritualist has been able to question at least some of their own childhood beliefs, then he or she may be better equipped to question his or her own new beliefs than someone who has yet bothered to question any of their beliefs.
PETER: Over the past few years I have had occasion to have some discussions with a Buddhist and I am continuously amazed at how quickly he can assimilate anything I may happen to say about actualism into his own religious beliefs. He does not even blink an eyelid, let alone stop to think or contemplate. These interactions continue to remind me of the overwhelming power that the sense-numbing combination of belief and passion has over human thinking – so much so that this disability has been recognized in psychiatry and given the label of cognitive dissonance. The other aspect that always stands out in these discussions is that he is so totally self-centred that he has no interest whatsoever in what is happening in the world, i.e. he is so much is he concerned with maintaining his own ‘inner peace’ he doesn’t give a fig about peace on earth.
RESPONDENT: Similar to my experiences. I’ve been amazed at the chameleon like characteristics of Buddhism ... that’s the primary factor in its spread. It always struck me as odd that Tibetan and Zen flavours bear almost no resemblance.
PETER: There have been some examples of spiritualists who even manage to absorb some of actualism into their spiritual beliefs and some have even started to teach their own personal hodgepodge version of actualism to others. What they don’t realize is that they stand out like dog’s balls because they come across in the vein of spiritual teachers – seeking power and authority by questioning and probing the beliefs of others while blithely never daring to question their own beliefs. The reason they don’t dare question their own beliefs, as you put it so well, is that
PETER: That ‘religion is the greatest obstacle’ is a spiritual-world psittacism often trotted out by spiritualists in order to separate their own spiritual-religious practices from that of the herd.
RESPONDENT: Well of course. I tend to lump ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ together. Regardless of the dogma, they tend to smell the same to me.
PETER: It takes a good nose to sniff out spiritualism precisely because of its chameleon like character. As your investigations proceed you may well be surprised at the extent of its almost complete infiltration into every aspect of Western society. I know I was.
PETER: Indeed. History is littered with the bodies of those who were foolish enough to question the belief of others. Whereas actualism is utterly safe, because the only beliefs you need to question to become free of the human condition are your own.
RESPONDENT: Well, safe is a stretch. Once one questions beliefs to this sort of extent, it’s a one way street.
PETER: It sounds as though you have got the gist of what is on offer in the process of actualism.
RESPONDENT: Radical shifts in perception are usually a one-way street. That’s one of the reasons they’re radical.
PETER: Actualism involves much more than a ‘shift in perception’, it involves the deliberate dismantling of one’s social and instinctual identity, a process which will not only bring about a change in your thoughts and feelings but also your actions. Whilst questioning and challenging the beliefs of others is by no means a safe and sensible thing to do, questioning your own beliefs is safe in that the only thing you are doing is diminishing your own miserable and malicious ‘self’. This process is utterly safe because ‘you’ are in control of the extent and pace of the process of your own ‘self’-investigation – only ‘you’ can challenge your own beliefs, no one else can.
You can escape your fate and become the master of your own destiny – the experience of actualism is that no one is standing in the way of you becoming free of the human condition.
RESPONDENT: I’ve had several experiences where I’ve gone through some long torturous internal analytical process, to find at the end that in my thinking I had clearly had my head far up my butt. It’s almost dizzying to look back on some of my processes and wonder ‘what was I thinking?’
PETER: It is so refreshing to be able to be naive without being gullible – it’s one of the many benefits of lived experience not squandered by giving up in acceptance, or giving in to cynicism.
RESPONDENT: This much I have learned over the last few years. Refreshing, yes, and a relief too. Quite pleasant to drop the heavy burden of our masks, our ‘responsibilities’. What were we dragging that baggage around for anyways?
PETER: Because thus far there were only two alternatives, being normal or being spiritual, there was no other choice because you are born with instinctual passions and conditioned to be a social identity. Whilst being an identity can be experienced as wearing a mask, I experience it more as ‘I’ am a fraud – particularly so because I have experienced that purity and perfection is possible.
RESPONDENT: I’ve been amazed at the chameleon like characteristics of Buddhism ... that’s the primary factor in its spread. It always struck me as odd that Tibetan and Zen flavours bear almost no resemblance.
PETER: There have been some examples of spiritualists who even manage to absorb some of actualism into their spiritual beliefs and some have even started to teach their own personal hodgepodge version of actualism to others. What they don’t realize is that they stand out like dog’s balls because they come across in the vein of spiritual teachers – seeking power and authority by questioning and probing the beliefs of others while blithely never daring to question their own beliefs. The reason they don’t dare question their own beliefs, as you put it so well, is that ‘Once one questions beliefs to this sort of extent, it’s a one way street’.
RESPONDENT: Oddly enough, the principles of AF are similar if not identical to how I interpreted Zen in my early days of study. It has that pure direct simplicity that I thought the Zen guys were trying to convey. Then they got tangled up in much dogma and it started to stink to me. Before you jump on this statement, I must re-emphasize the ‘how I interpreted’ fragment. Or perhaps I was projecting my own view on to their offerings... Who knows, and it’s all moot anyways.
PETER: I do recommend spending some time dipping into the spiritual teachings that have lead you up the garden path in past years. I found by deliberately doing this, I learnt a good deal about what makes ‘me’ tick and came to understand exactly what is seductive about spiritual teachings. I also learnt how deeply rooted spirit-ridden beliefs are within the human psyche and how they fit hand in glove with both our social identity and our instinctual identity. Dismissing beliefs or swapping beliefs is not the same as investigating and demolishing beliefs.
Exactly as in my building work, it was not enough to know that something failed – I needed to also know why it failed so I wouldn’t repeat the same mistake again.
PETER: That ‘religion is the greatest obstacle’ is a spiritual-world psittacism often trotted out by spiritualists in order to separate their own spiritual-religious practices from that of the herd.
RESPONDENT: Well of course. I tend to lump ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ together. Regardless of the dogma, they tend to smell the same to me.
PETER: It takes a good nose to sniff out spiritualism precisely because of its chameleon-like character. As your investigations proceed you may well be surprised at the extent of its almost complete infiltration into every aspect of Western society. I know I was.
RESPONDENT: Are you discriminating between spirituality and religion? As I said, I tend to lump them together (in one big compost heap), but if you have anything to say on the subject, I wouldn’t mind hearing/reading it.
PETER: I certainly discriminated between spirituality and religion for some 17 years. I gave up both real-world materialism and religion for spiritual communes and Eastern spirituality. For me at the time, there was a world of difference between religion and spirituality, they were chalk and cheese. For 17 years I experienced that there were only two alternatives until I happened upon actualism. What I discovered was that I could not just throw away a lifetime of conditioning overnight but that it took a great deal of meticulous effort and a constant attentiveness to become aware of how insidious this programming was such that I could weed it out.
I would assume as more is written and published debunking the myths of spirituality that it may be easier for future generations to see through the myths and legends of spirituality, but at the moment spirituality is the predominant influence in all human social programming. Human beings have come to accept that their instinctual ‘self’ or ‘being’ is a soul or spirit that has a life independent of the physical body and can even survive the death of the corporeal body. Because of this all-consuming belief the only way out of spirituality is the extinction of the soul – the ending of ‘being’ and the becoming of what you are – a mortal flesh and blood body.
It is one thing to read about other people’s discoveries and other people’s debunking of spiritualism and to agree with them, it is another to deliberately set off on a path that leads to ‘self’-immolation. Because of this, an actualist has to make their own investigations into the insidious nature of spiritual teachings and the influence of spiritualism on their own thinking and feeling so as to incrementally free themselves of all spiritual beliefs, concepts and feelings.
RESPONDENT: To relevance to actualism: If in fact the universe is electric, or if in fact it is filled with rubber duckies ... how is it relevant to actualism?
PETER: If you want to contemplate on life, the universe and what it is to be a human being, ...
RESPONDENT: Most assuredly.
PETER: … and your contemplations are based on the currently-fashionable pseudo-scientific theories of an expanding universe – replete with a Big Bang beginning, full of or even empty of, all sorts of unseen, unseeable and unmeasurable phenomena and which will suffer some Diabolical End –
RESPONDENT: Most assuredly not.
PETER: ... then you will remain in the grip of spiritual belief.
RESPONDENT: What few spiritual beliefs I had in the past are gone now. That was the point of describing a bit of my history ... how it was not a spiritual path.
PETER: Are you saying that reading Eastern spiritual texts, liking what you read and being attracted to the teachings is to be not on a spiritual path? ‘Path’ as in a motivational direction or line of enquiry or the pursuit of an interest or course of action. Perhaps because you took no action, i.e. didn’t get involved in the nuts and bolts of applying any spiritual teachings, you don’t see it as having been on a path but your point does seem somewhat moot to me.
I have always assumed that those who are at all interested in life, the universe and what it is to be a human being would have found the grim dog-eat-dog reality of materialism to be unsatisfactory and would have explored what was on offer in spiritual teachings and the spiritual world – i.e. to have checked out the spiritual path. At age 32 I found by experience that the grim reality of materialism sucked, by age 49 I found by experience that spiritualism’s Greater Reality is a wank – which is why I moved on to the nuts and bolts of actualism. It makes sense for anyone interested in life to explore what is on offer, to find out if it works and, if it doesn’t work, to move on.
RESPONDENT: I did not bring that particular kind of baggage, but a whole truckload of many others.
PETER: Speaking personally, I found bits of my spiritual identity – be it a Christian moral, a Buddhist ethic, a New-Age psittacism, a Mother Earth belief or such – popping up in my baggage for several years after I abandoned the spiritual path. But then again that is hardly surprising for finding such baggage is the whole point of the process of actualism – to do all ‘I’ can to root out every thing that prevents me from being happy and harmless.
As you said ‘all religion and spirituality is rotten to the core’ – so any skerrick of religious/spiritual belief, no matter how seemingly innocuous or apparently well-intentioned, has to be scrupulously investigated, clearly seen for what it is, and deleted from one’s psyche – firstly as an effect, and then as a fact, i.e. it doesn’t resurface.
RESPONDENT: What I just wrote to Vineeto fits well with what you wrote:
I have had people tell me that they hope my ‘childish view’ on life lasts (insinuating that I should grow up) and one even wished me ill when I did not agree with his sorrowful view on life. Tall Poppy Syndrome is it called? I think I see what you mean Peter.
PETER: As for the ‘tall poppy syndrome’, you only need to observe the revolving door of spiritualists who come to this list and head straight for Richard in order to cut him down a peg or two. And it is fascinating to observe how they are so convinced that they, and their ilk, are right – that the meaning of life is somewhere hidden in the ancient mumbo-jumbo of Eastern spirituality – and that we actualists are wrong, so much so that they have not the slightest interest in what is being talked about on this mailing list. They provide a wonderful opportunity to observe first-hand how holding on to any religious or spiritual belief or philosophy actively stifles any possibility of even considering the idea that something new has now been discovered – that it is now possible for any human being, so inclined, to become free of malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: Anyway, you can assert all you want, the plain fact is, you’re saying nothing different from what Zen, Dzogchen, Advaita and several other systems, Eastern AND Western, say. I wouldn’t say your message is exactly common as muck, it’s quite rare, but not all that rare, and certainly not unique as you claim. I guess the sort of ‘Ayn Rand on acid’ aspect of what you’re saying is slightly unusual, but even then, the combination of pure objectivism and materialism with mysticism isn’t all that unknown. With genuine enlightenment comes an understanding that both ‘matter’ and ‘mind’ are sort of hokey, and the truth is quite at right angles to either, so either can be used quite comfortably by the experienced mystic. So, the fact that you claim your schtick is unique, what can that mean? Giving you the most benefit of the doubt, it seems to mean that you’re not very well read in this business. Perhaps you immersed yourself for a long time in some obscure, out-of-the-way system that doesn’t interact much with others, and doesn’t recommend much triangulation or ‘cross-training’ (so to speak). I guess living in Australia, that’s possible :-) Either that, or (less charitably) for some reason you haven’t recognised what you’ve read, and you think this thing you’ve stumbled on is something different from what you’ve read about. (That’s possible – it’s not always easy, because of the fact that much of this stuff is not in English, for English speakers to understand what the ‘Sages’ were on about – especially when you take into account translations by mystically inexperienced Westerners with ‘West Bad/East Good’ axes to grind.)
Or perhaps (and now we’re getting down and dirty) you’re just a not-very-clever con artist? (What could you get out of it? Well, what do males who play the enlightenment game get out of it? Chicks, and a living, I suppose – but mainly adulation. Adulation. Adulation.) Or perhaps (perish the thought!) it’s something different: perhaps you’ve fallen into what the Tibetan Tantrists call ‘vajra hell’: your ego has subtly inflated itself to the point where you think you’re some kind of Saviour or Redeemer. You’ve come here to save poor little Us, have you? Come to show Us the Way? Is that it? Which is it ‘Richard’? It’s certainly not what you claim it is, because, as I’ve said, what you’re talking about is not unique at all. No system of any note or repute that I’m aware of (certainly not ‘biggies’ like Zen, Advaita or Dzogchen) view ASCs as Enlightenment. They all say ASCs are a blind alley. They all say ordinary, fresh perception, but without any self-sense present, is the genuine Enlightenment, and that the only ‘training’ required is getting used to THAT. The very essence of the Buddha’s enlightenment was that too. Buddha = Awake. Awake to what? What else is there to be awake to? Great, grand symphonies of unusual and wonderful experiences, cultivated through odd practices? Well, possibly – that fellow Gotama certainly tried all that stuff: but what happens when you stop cultivating such experiences? What’s still there, all along? What do you think ‘Middle Way’ means? So what’s it to be? Who is this ‘Richard’? Not very widely read? Not linking what he’s read with what he’s experienced very well? Vanilla con artist? ‘Saviour’? It’s got to be one of these, or something like one of these, because (for the last time) the notion that what this ‘Richard’ character is offering (however true and worthy it may be) is unique is ... well, not to put too fine a point on it, laughable.
PETER: Your post is an excellent example of why the revered wisdom of Eastern spirituality has had its day.
The clamouring for the moral high-ground has indeed become frenetic as each new pundit on the block not only routinely bites the tails of others but feigns to bite their own tail in some sort of ritual public display of male, or female, superiority. If you had cared to skim through the correspondence on the website you would have seen that we have had a good many such types who have regularly paraded through this list, offering nothing but vacuous objections. None have had anything original to say because all of them desperately cling to the narcissistic feelings that come from over-immersion in spiritual beliefs and none have stayed because in the end they have nothing at all to say about peace on earth.
RESPONDENT: I don’t think you even understand the first thing about Eastern spirituality. Nor Western, come to think of it.
I was never much interested in the philosophy of either Eastern spirituality nor Western mysticism for that matter – being a practical person, I was more interested in finding out how Eastern spirituality worked in practice, i.e. in garnering an experiential understanding.
When I got the spiritual ‘bug’, I turned my back on the materialist world, abandoned my worldly goods, literally wore the orange robes and lived full-time in several spiritual communes – which is to say I lived the spiritual life fully for a period of 17 years. I sat at the feet of arguably one of last century’s most influential Enlightened Masters for a good many years and was eventually able to get to see first-hand the behind-the-stage goings-on of his rise and eventual demise. I then sat at the feet of another, lesser-known Enlightened Master for several years and had yet another opportunity to experience first-hand the behind-the-stage shenanigans … and I was about to join yet another commune of a New-Age Guru when I finally came to experientially understand that the whole of the famed Eastern Spirituality was nought but ‘Olde Time Religion’.
Nowhere did I experience the peace and harmony within the communes that I expected would be the result of devotees who passionately believed ‘We Are All One’ or ‘We Are All That’ or ‘We Are All One Consciousness’ et al.
At present I live in a town that is a Mecca for spiritualists of all ilks and again no-where do I see anything that remotely resembles peace and harmony within the spiritual communities, let alone between the various spiritual communities. Not only that, the spiritualists hold themselves aloof from the rest of the community in which they live by clinging to a spurious moral high-ground based solely on the belief that their particular beliefs are superior to the spiritual/religious beliefs of others. And from this righteous lofty perch they look down on the unwashed, the unaware and the unawakened on whom they lay the blame for the all of the ills of mankind – all the while in denial of the part that they themselves are playing in sustaining the fictitious, but played-out-as-if-it-was-real, battle between Good and Evil, the mythical battle that is the very crutch upon which of all spiritual and religious beliefs are founded.
In other words, spiritualists are busily attempting to rise to the top of a heap which has no existence outside of human imagination – both the heap and the top.
Maybe by now you are getting the gist of why I was attracted to becoming actually free of not only the instinctually-fuelled battle of materialism but also of the instinctually-fuelled fantasies of spirituality as well. Contrary to your assertion that I ‘don’t understand the first thing about Eastern spirituality’, it was because I lived Eastern spirituality for 17 years and found it wanting that I was attracted to something that clearly delivers what spiritualism professes to offer but always fails to deliver – the day-to-day, moment-to-moment inherent peacefulness and perfection of the actuality of this, the only universe there is.
RESPONDENT: Just wanted to pop in and say hi! My name is <> ... and I just discovered this site yesterday ... and so far, it is just what the doctor ordered. I have been working for some time with #1 bringing in more awareness to the present moment and #2 dropping belief systems/ reference points. There is rich material on this site to assist with this.
PETER: As you will discover when you dip a bit deeper into the Actual Freedom Trust website, the actualism method is not about ‘me’ ‘bringing in more awareness to the present moment’. Such a practice can only result in an increased ‘self’-centeredness – not only do ‘I’ think and feel myself to be the centre of ‘my’ world but, with time and effort and practice, ‘I’ can eventually get to think and feel ‘I’ am the centre of the whole world, and all sorts of narcissistic feelings and altered states of consciousness can result. Actualism, on the other hand, is about being attentive to how I am experiencing this moment of being alive with the committed aim of doing whatever is needed to become as happy and as harmless as humanly possible.
As for #2, if you are sincere in working on ‘dropping belief systems/ reference points’ then this sincerity will serve to provoke you into examining the nature of your current spiritual practices and beliefs. The first part of this examination is to determine whether your spiritual beliefs can stand up to intellectual scrutiny – i.e. do they make sense? Most people who have come across actualism have baulked at this preliminary stage of questioning their beliefs and have resorted to raising objections to the central tenet of actualism – objecting to becoming happy and harmless in the world as-it-is, with people as-they are.
Should you manage to get beyond the stage of defending your spiritual beliefs – defence being the first naturally occurring instinctual reaction – then the possibility arises of being able to read what is on offer on the Actual Freedom Trust website with clear, non-spiritual, eyes and then the unbridled fun of investigation and exploration as to what it is to be a human being can really begin.
RESPONDENT: I have been discovering so much within myself ... that in the past I could only see in others ... and I have been discovering that so much of the time I appear to be ‘lost in thought’ ... and that the great majority of my life has been this way.
PETER: Should you one day decide to become a practicing actualist, you will discover that rather than being ‘lost in thought’, you are in fact ‘wallowing in feelings’, as is every other sentient being on the planet – which is precisely why the salient traits of the human condition are feelings of animosity and anguish. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the discovery that it is now possible to become free of the human condition in toto, a grand opportunity beckons for those who are sufficiently motivated to become free of this instinctual and social heritage.
RESPONDENT: How delightful to finally notice my own hands on the steering wheel as I drive to work ...
PETER: Yeah. When I came across actualism I was challenged to stop blindly following the wisdom of the past and to firmly grab the tiller and steer myself out of the mess I had unwittingly landed myself in.
RESPONDENT: … or the richness of a body-guilt feeling as it begins to emerge.
PETER: Maybe you could explain what a ‘body-guilt feeling’ means to you as the term doesn’t make sense to me. It could well be a rich topic for discussion – only if you want to, of course.
RESPONDENT: With all of my heart, I want to know more about life. I have been down many spiritual roads ... dead ends to be sure.
PETER: Yep. There’s far more to life than the pursuit of spiritual fantasies. What actualism points out, in clear and unequivocal terms, is that there is a perfect and pure, peaceful and pristine, actual world – right here in this moment in time and this place in space, under our very noses as it were. And not only does actualism make this clear, it also provides a pragmatic method to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ – to get from being an instinctually-driven socially-embroiled being trapped within a grim instinctual reality to incrementally becoming what you are – a sensuously aware flesh and blood corporeal body able to think and reflect on the infinitude of this, the only universe there is.
RESPONDENT: I am left again with just me ... and I am happy with that ... for there is much to see, feel and explore with this alone.
PETER: If you aspire to be an actualist, you will have to set your sights a good deal higher than being happy being just ‘me’. The Eastern spiritual teachings of ‘be content with being ‘who’ you are’ has enticed so many seekers to give up seeking peace on earth and conned them into settling for second best. I couldn’t do it.
RESPONDENT: I am fascinated right now with intent ... to use intent in the most fierce way to #1 live in the present more and more ... and #2 to shed the numerous skins of beliefs and identities.
PETER: Well, you are on the wrong mailing list if your intent is for ‘#1’ but you are on the right mailing list if your intent is for ‘#2’. You seem to have serendipitously come across a fork in the road – which way you go is solely a matter of your intent.
RESPONDENT: Peter ... thank you very much for your feedback. After considering your response, it is evident that, at times, I do not communicate accurately.
PETER: Having just re-read your post, I cannot see that you have not communicated accurately. Such a statement could also imply that I have misunderstood what you said – which is a different matter all together.
In the interests of accurate communication, would you like to re-visit the content so that we can sort out the matter?
RESPONDENT: And also, that I harbour some spiritual beliefs that I wasn’t even aware of.
PETER: You certainly are not alone in this. Spiritual and religious beliefs are part and parcel of the human condition – as a human being one either believes in some form of spiritual or religious belief, is tolerant of religious or spiritual beliefs, is antagonistic towards spiritual or religious beliefs, or is agnostic towards spiritual or religious beliefs. There has been no other alternative up until now.
If I may point out, when you said –
– this was a dead giveaway that you have been practicing Eastern spiritual beliefs for a good while.
And again, when you said –
– this clearly indicated that you believe in the Eastern spiritual practice of accepting and being content with ‘who’ you are.
You might find the following link useful as it points out many of the fallacies and failures of Eastern spiritual belief. You may well be able to easily relate to it as the writing is in the form of a book review of a Western man who has written about Eastern spirituality, in other words it is an easily understood debunking of what has come to be known as the spiritual path.
PETER to No 62: Given that you have resorted to attempting to play the role of guru on this list rather than on your own mailing list, it occurred to me to offer you a bit of advice with regard to your self-appointed status of would-be Guru. I very rarely offer unsolicited advice to anyone these days but it does seem that your business is slow over there on the Ranch, else why would you bother hawking your ‘wisdom’ on a non-spiritual mailing list. I do realize that you are probably the last person who would be open to taking advice from anyone but I do have good credentials in being able to advise Gurus as I was an avid follower of many in my spiritual years. It is also an opportunity to pass on some information about the nature of the guru-disciple business for those who may have come to this mailing list thinking that this is a spiritual mailing list replete with a resident Guru.
The first important aspect that one needs to realize is that the reason that people are attracted to Gurus is that they are essentially looking for a Big Daddy or Big Mummy who will tell them what to think, what to feel, what to do and how to do it. In order to be successful in the business it is important for a Guru to never lose sight of this central role you are playing in other people’s lives and this essential need you are fulfilling, and I say this from direct experience of following several Gurus, and a good deal of reading about others. I am not saying that a Guru can’t have an individual style, but the important thing is to have and sustain an air of authority about you such as a child would feel for a parent.
A dependant child will take a deal of tough love from a parent provided there is a balance of soft love, or to put it another way, a child will take a bit of stick as long as there is carrot on offer to balance it out (else t’is what is commonly known as child abuse). In exactly the same way, a Guru needs to offer a mix of carrot in the form of soft love if he or she is to wield the stick on occasions. What the successful Gurus do is offer the carrot of unconditional love in the form of vibes and to do this they need to sustain an aura of love combined with a certain degree of personal charisma. Whilst this tends to come naturally to those who are Enlightened (as in they have ‘become’ Love, That, It, or whatever), for those who are not yet fully deluded these attributes do need working on.
Successful Gurus – those who have both aura and charisma and those who utilize both soft and tough love – literally have their followers on a string, and the shorter and stronger the string becomes, the more they personally can get away with, for the followers literally become blinded by love and devotion – not to mention being literally hobbled by dependency for the Guru’s love. Successful Gurus can literally toy with their followers and their feelings, sometimes casting pearls and sometimes not, sometimes praising, sometimes rebuking, thereby always ensuring they remain on the hook.
From what you have said, it appears that you may have modelled your business on Mr. Gurdjieff – the tough, hard approach, all stick and no carrot. I would suggest that Mr. Gurdjieff may well have had an aura, a certain (exotic/eccentric?) charisma and offered carrots as well as wielded the stick because he at least had gathered a few disciples by the time he died. Whilst I do understand that some people are attracted by the brutally honest (as in brutal), tough love (as in odious) approach, as in ‘She’s really being Real’, I do think it somewhat restricts your market both in numbers and in dollars.
Well that’s about it. The town I live in has two significant businesses, one being tourist, the other being Gurus and wannabe gurus of various sorts and at one stage I thought of offering a guru-grooming service, offering advice about style, technique and presentation – I think there could well be a buck in it for a smarter operator than me.
RESPONDENT: Peter, I’ve just finished reading your online journal and enjoyed it immensely. Your common sense approach to the subject matter within each chapter rang true to many of my own views upon this life we experience.
PETER: Becoming an actualist was a life-changing experience for me because I had to stubbornly break a lifetime habit and instinctive compulsion of ‘self’-centred affective experiencing. The main point I wanted to get across in writing my journal was that the process of actualism is a life-changing experience and to regard actualism as a philosophy is a cop-out.
RESPONDENT: Unlike both yourself and Richard I have never been down the spiritual paths – neither western nor eastern, and can not remember being anything but an out and out atheist, so reading your journal made perfect sense to me – I have no religious baggage to unload.
PETER: You have obviously at least intellectually explored some spiritual paths as you have recently said –
I am curious – when you say you ‘have never been anything but an out an out atheist’, why then did you bother reading spiritualism?
The reason I ask is that most Western people who claim to be atheists use the word atheist as meaning they do not believe in the monotheist Christian God and yet they quite happily believe in the animism of Environmentalism, the metaphysics of Einsteinian science, the mysticism of philosophy, the occultism of traditional healing, or whatever. When I use the term thorough-going atheist, I use the term to mean someone who not only intellectually discards any spiritual, mystical or metaphysical beliefs whatsoever but does so on the basis of their own direct experience that any and all spiritual, mystical or metaphysical beliefs are naught but human feeling-fed fantasies, i.e. they have no existence in the actual world.
A lack of any hands-on experience of the spiritual path need not be a hindrance to becoming actually free of the human condition … provided one starts to become vitally interested in being here. (...)
RESPONDENT: I am also looking at my ego and becoming more aware of how it gets in the way in normal day-to-day interactions using HAIETMOBA. I am also aware that what I’m probably doing is bolting on some actualism to my current life style, …
PETER: If you are aware of this then you will also be aware that you are wasting the opportunity that actualism offers.
RESPONDENT: I certainly don’t have the pure intent to ‘go all the way’ although I think I do have what you refer to as PCEs but only fleetingly. These moments usually come when sitting looking at the trees through the windows of my conservatory.
PETER: The fleeting moments you describe may well be what are sometimes referred to as Nature Experiences whereby one feels an inner peace by making an affective connection with the inherent stillness of this paradisaical planet. Nature Experiences are commonly experienced as being precious ‘time-outs’ from the rat-race or the real-world and whilst they could be a precursor to the onset of a PCE they are more generally experienced as spiritual experiences in that ‘I’ as spirit being connect with the spirit of nature, or ‘I’ as feeling being feel connected with the Whole.
PETER: Altered states of consciousness are far more tempting because denial and dissociation are easier options ...
RESPONDENT: Jeez, not for me. I’ve found ‘denial and dissociation’ so bloody boring as to be an impossible way to live.
PETER: I made the comment because this was my experience – even a good many months after I had a good intellectual grasp of the fact that actualism had nothing to do with spiritualism and that any ‘self’-aggrandizing states were but a wank, I gradually became aware that I was having subtle behind-the-scenes ‘self’-aggrandizing feelings. The only reason I discovered them was that they came bubbling to the surface such that I could neither deny them nor dissociate from them. I mentioned it in my journal so as to flag a warning as it were to others who might tread the path –
RESPONDENT: At various times (being aware that ‘I’ am the thorn in ‘my’ side, but unable to penetrate through it) I’ve looked into various spiritual teachings that are light on metaphysics eg. J Krishnamurti and Zen.
PETER: Perhaps a better way of saying it is that they are very careful to couch their teachings in words that can’t readily be seen to be meta-physical. Jiddu Krishnamurti played largely to Western audiences so he was usually very careful to couch his teachings as being non-religious and was very careful in his use of words so as to disguise the religiosity of his message. Zen’s metaphysics on the other hand have been penned by men who have spent so long isolated from the world-as-it-is and people as-they-are that their teachings are but rarefied nonsense … which apparently is why they have such widespread appeal, particularly amongst those with an intellectual-only bent.
Oops, there I go again being politically incorrect …
RESPONDENT: The result has invariably been a numb stupidity, a state of absolute paralysis of will, and a dullness like living death. Obviously never succeeded in breaking down the ego, and without that the ‘spiritual life’ would be intolerable (for me).
PETER: I got into spirituality because it promised peace on earth and living in spiritual communities was to be the proving ground of whether this was possible or not. When that turned out to be a furphy, I then figured that the personal pursuit of an impersonal freedom, aka death of the ego, was the go. Over time, it gradually dawned on me that this meant that if I was successful I would end up being a God-man compelled to gather followers in order that they revere me as a being a God-man. About this time the whole spiritual pursuit began to have a sour taste for me.
RESPONDENT: I’m probably not the best one to judge, but I reckon the psychedelic experience (esp. LSD) is as dramatically different from ‘spiritual’ experience as it is from ‘ordinary’ experience.
PETER: Well given that you have considerable experience of being ‘normal’, that you apparently have had psychedelic experiences and that you have had at least one pure consciousness experience that you can remember, you may also come to have an ASC spiritual experience if you hang in with being attentive to your feelings on the path to actual freedom.
The reason I say this is because Vineeto had a full-blown altered states of consciousness experience when she was exploring the issues of love and compassion – in-depth explorations can bring in-depth experiencing of the emotions and passions that are integral to the human psyche. I personally didn’t have an ASC in my explorations perhaps because I had had one previously towards the end of my spiritual years, but I did hit the bottom of fear one day only to experience excruciating dread in a hellish realm that was not dissimilar to Dante’s fiery inferno or the descriptions of Christian Hell.
Not that I am saying that anyone who is now interested in treading the path to actual freedom will have to experience what I experienced, or what Vineeto experienced, or what Richard experienced for that matter, but some degree or type of ‘plumbing of the depths’ is essential in order that one is able to experience for oneself, first-hand, the instinctual passions that lie at the very core of the human psyche. But it is your journey to make, if you want to make it, and only you can make the journey – all I am offering is tips and hints based on what it is that I have discovered thus far. In other words, take these words at face value and decide for yourself in your own experience as to whether they are relevant or not or if they make sense or not.
RESPONDENT: I’ve never read of a spiritual experience that reveals a universe teeming with self-similar fractal structures at many different levels of abstraction, with the abstract and the concrete interwoven in ways that the most gifted human imagination could *never* devise. I dunno though. Maybe Richard has experienced something of the sort.
PETER: I have had only one psychedelic drug experience in my life and that was when I was a 20yr. old travelling around Europe. Someone offered me a pill that they said ‘would make me feel good’ and me, being a gullible lad from conservative suburban Australia, took it thinking it was some type of vitamin pill. I can only presume it was LSD as what followed was a complete distortion of all my sensory inputs which was quite something as I was then driven through downtown Frankfurt for a night at a bar. Lights, noise and movement were but a jumble and any attempts at orienting myself or making sense of what was happening or of what I was experiencing as apparently happening were impossible.
I didn’t experience the psychedelic experience as being an expansion of consciousness as some say it is but rather as a distortion of sensory perception which usually entices the mind to imagine all sorts of weird and wonderful scenarios, and sometimes downright terrifying ones by all accounts. Presumably one could have a spiritual experience in such a state, imagining there to be fairies at the bottom of the garden or that it is all God’s ‘Leela’ or even that all of what one is experiencing is but an illusion staged solely for my benefit, but I am no expert in drug-induced experiences. I do know that one psychedelic experience was enough for me … I never hankered for more.
PETER: The discovery of an actual freedom from the human condition renders the whole mystical tradition not only irrelevant but it exposes it for what it is – an aberration from the dim, dark ages of humanity.
RESPONDENT: Maybe I should have asked you from the start: what precisely do you mean by ‘mystical’?
PETER: Yea. My knowledge of the spiritual world was an experiential ‘insider’ knowledge and it was only by undertaking a clear-eyed investigation into the spiritual world that I came to have a more intellectual understanding of its various nuances. Perhaps the following explanation from the Encyclopaedia Britannica will serve as a useful beginning to understanding mysticism –
PETER: The discovery of an actual freedom from the human condition renders the whole mystical tradition not only irrelevant but it exposes it for what it is – an aberration from the dim, dark ages of humanity. Far from being outside of an actualist’s area of expertise, the mysticism still taught and practiced in current day science is precisely the field of expertise of an actualist. A practicing actualist has a hands-on experiential understanding of the workings of the human condition (including the instinctive lure of mysticism and spiritualism).
RESPONDENT: Yeah, but does he have a privileged insight into the ultimate nature of the universe? I need to hear more about your basis for arguing this with such surety.
PETER: I am not arguing anything, I am only pointing to the facts. You made the statement that it is a bit rich to label Paul Davies as being spiritual and I simply posted a quote in which he champions metaphysical science. I didn’t need to rely on my ‘privileged insight’, as you put it, I simply went to my bookshelf, pulled out one of his books – it happened to be one of those ones that I read when I was investigating the extent to which spiritualism still dominates science – and sat down and typed out the quote. Given that you didn’t reply I then added another quote for further clarification.
As for your reliance on Paul Davies’ expertise and his insight into the ultimate nature of the universe, you might have noticed that his own research was conducted on a ‘toy universe’ that had only one spatial dimension and not the three spatial dimensions of the world that you and I live in. So much for down-to-earth common sense.
RESPONDENT: You have evidently spoken to a lot of people with spiritual beliefs, and people who practice spiritual disciplines over the years. I think this makes you tend to see it, or suspect it, where it is not actually present. The only ‘mystical’ aspect of my world view or direct experience of life occurs during ASCs, but I do not take those ASCs authoritative insights into how things actually are. (I try to keep an open mind, keep what is valuable, useful, consistent with known facts, if anything, and reject the rest).
PETER: I have yet to meet or speak to any people who are not affected by spiritual beliefs, either they are believers or they are agnostics, i.e. they remain ‘open’ to the possibility that all beliefs being truths – in other words, either way they are affected by belief because they have not supplanted beliefs with facts. Spiritual belief is part and parcel of ‘the human drama’ as you put it. I have had many people tell me they are not spiritual only to have them tell me a while later about an acupuncture session they have had, or asking me what my star sign is, or telling me that they have just bought a Buddha statue for their garden, or that Evil Mankind is wounding Mother Earth or that living a Puritan lifestyle or eating Puritan foods not only can cure disease but can ensure you won’t get sick in the first place … and so on.
PETER: You wrote the following to Vineeto, but given that you have made mention of me, I thought to correct some misconceptions:
RESPONDENT to Vineeto: Some people choose beliefs according to their utility value. (What does it buy me? Does it make me happy? Is it reassuring? Will it bring me peace? Will it serve me well in a crisis? How can I use it? Who else believes it? Can I trust the person who’s telling me this? Do I like the person who’s telling me this? Do I want to BE like them? etc)
Other people examine ideas, statements, hypotheses, explanations, theories as provisional models which either do or don’t conform to objective reality. (You might have noticed that these two types of people have been in conflict for a couple of thousand years?)
PETER: Which only emphasises how silly it is hold to any beliefs whatsoever, be they religious, spiritual, metaphysical, mystical, humanistic, atheistic, materialistic or whatever. Beliefs are the bane of humankind.
RESPONDENT: I’m one of the latter, for better or worse. If an idea, thought, model, theory, whatever, is comforting, reassuring, beautiful, but most likely untrue, it is useless to me as a belief. It never becomes something I trust in, rely on, or defend. As a consequence, I have not been willing or able to believe in anything supernatural for a long, long time. Now, you and Peter, evidently being of the other type who select beliefs on the basis of their utility rather than their factuality, seem not to understand this.
PETER: No. The image you have concocted of me has no basis in fact and if you care to read my journal you will see that it is a fabrication. Before I became a spiritualist I would have described myself as being an atheist, as the notion of an omnipotent God was a nonsense to me as was the idea of a life-after-death. I came across spiritualism for the first time in my life about age 35 and the attraction was two-fold – the possibility of freedom before physical death and the idea of living in peaceful communes so as to prove that is possible for human beings to live together in peace and harmony. I also would have described myself as an atheist during this period as the notion of an omnipotent God was a nonsense to me as was the notion of a life-after-death.
The belief that spiritual people are capable of living together in peace and harmony was gradually dispelled as the dream faded and the ‘it’s every man and women for themselves’ reality set in. The other shocking thing was that when my guru died he had ‘Never born, never died, just visited the planet’ chiselled on his tombstone. In other words, I had been conned into believing that Eastern spiritualism had nothing to do with a life-after-death which is clearly wrong as all Eastern religion includes the belief in life-after-death.
The other relevant point to make is that I never ‘chose beliefs according to their utility value’ as you put it. I was born into a Western, Anglo-Saxon, Christian society which inevitably meant that I developed a social identity that was made up of the beliefs, values, morals, ethics, ideas and opinions of the parents, peers and society I was born into. Nobody is able to ‘choose beliefs according to their unity value’ as every other human being born on the planet inevitably imbibes a full set of beliefs, values, morals, ethics, ideas and opinions which become the very substance of their social identities. A social conscience is another way of describing this identity – a ‘someone’ who keeps the instinctual urges under control such that one is able to function as a fit and useful member of society.
There is a good deal written about this on the Actual Freedom Trust website if you are interested in following it up. The The Actual Freedom Trust Library topic ‘Social Identity’ is an apt place to start.
RESPONDENT: You (pl – especially Peter) automatically assume that other people are like you, and unfortunately you (pl – especially Peter) are largely deaf and blind to counter information.
PETER: I automatically assume that other people are essentially like me in that all human beings born inevitably develop a social identity that overlays the instinctual self or being that is genetically-encoded in each and every fertilized egg and which is fully formed by about age 2 years.
RESPONDENT: As I’ve explained, rather than having spiritual beliefs that I must let go, I was never able to acquire them in the first place. I just couldn’t convince myself that these comforting beliefs in supernatural entities were actually true/ correct/ factual. I couldn’t believe them if I tried (and I did try). So I find it ludicrous when someone who a few short years ago was shouting ‘yahooo!!!’ at an empty chair tells me how necessary and how difficult it is to lose those precious spiritual beliefs.
PETER: Swapping one’s beliefs or changing one’s beliefs or even rejecting beliefs is one thing but intentionally undertaking a process of deliberately exposing all of one’s own beliefs is quite another. When I was a normal bloke, I became very disillusioned with the materialistic beliefs that I was told were the way-it-is and when I came across Eastern spirituality and its beliefs they appeared to me to be ‘the truth’ because they pointed to the paucity of material beliefs and they pointed to the possibility of a freedom from these beliefs based on the experiential observation that one can become free of one’s personal identity.
Abandoning the spiritual path and turning around proved to be only the start of a long and intense process of exposing all of the beliefs I either held dear or had not previously bothered to investigate for lack of interest and intent. I was not only amazed at the extent to which Eastern spirituality has permeated Western philosophy, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, science, eduction and medicine, but also at the extent to which I still held many religious/ spiritual beliefs, values, morals, ethics, ideas and opinions as a result of my childhood social conditioning – the beliefs that I thought I had rejected or thought I had transcended still lay dormant for lack of the genuine intent to actively dismantle my social and instinctual identity.
RESPONDENT: Here is something that might help you (addressed mainly to Peter) to deal with newcomers in future: When it comes to seeing through false beliefs, you came down in the last shower. You are a beginner. You think that seven years of unlearning your supernatural beliefs now makes you a seasoned expert in seeing through self-deception, but it doesn’t work that way. (On the contrary, your approach to actualism still has all the hallmarks of the ‘true believer’ mentality; it is strongly suggestive of the same old head-down, forehead-first, truth-be-fucked approach that you’ve had all along, only this time you’ve got a new and better set of ideas to give your life meaning, direction, purpose.)
PETER: I have already pointed out that what you feel about me is far from fact and I can only suggest that you read my journal if you want to acquaint yourself with the facts of the matter.
RESPONDENT: Anyway, to summarise: in my opinion there is quite a difference between ‘spirituality’ that is characterised by (a) impassioned investigation that is satisfied only by truth/factuality; and (b) impassioned adherence to and defence of a set of ideas, principles or practices that provide emotional comfort and/or promised benefit to the believer, regardless of their truth/falsehood.
PETER: Any and all spirituality is a crock – I wonder why you bother to make a distinction between the differing passions and motives of spiritual followers.
RESPONDENT: It may be a bit like the difference between a religious fanatic and a scientist. But perhaps you (pl) don’t consider that distinction useful either, since both scientists and suicide bombers are ‘spiritual’ per actualist usage.
PETER: I take it from the thrust of your conversation that you regard yourself as being more of the scientist type. If so, the following conversation may be worth revisiting –
The point being that one does need to have trod the spiritual path experientially to have taken on board spiritual beliefs as they are rife in many aspects of Western science and psychology, not to mention philosophy, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, eduction and medicine. (...)
RESPONDENT: If you speak to a skeptical/ secular spiritual ‘being’ as if s/he is a supernaturalist/ religious spiritual ‘being’, you are wasting your time, your energy and theirs.
PETER: The advantage of writing on a public mailing list is that others may well be interested in investigating whatever religious, spiritual, metaphysical, mystical, humanistic, atheistic and materialistic beliefs they hold to be truths whether they are dearly held beliefs or the less obvious ones that one has imbibed via the inevitable childhood socialization process.
RESPONDENT: You are inviting unnecessary misunderstanding and conflict.
PETER: Indeed, but there is no other way to say that the only way to become actually free from malice and sorrow is to devote one’s life to becoming happy and harmless.
RESPONDENT: Distinguishing between these two types of ‘spirituality’ is very easy, and it could resolve potential misunderstandings quickly and effortlessly, allowing people to move onto more interesting stuff. It sounds reasonable to me.
PETER: Once upon a time I was keen to leave any mention of spirituality out of actualism altogether but this proved impossible because it was obvious that those who would be interested in actualism would be those who found materialism wanting and those who have found materialism wanting would have at least checked out spiritualism to some degree, be it experientially or intellectually. As such, their idea of what it is to be free of the human condition would be inevitably coloured by Eastern spirituality and Eastern philosophy and they would inevitably confuse the actualism method with the passive awareness widely practiced in both the East and the West.
RESPONDENT: For the life of me, I cannot fathom why it meets with such dogged and boneheaded resistance, but so be it. That’s the way things are around here, evidently.
PETER: When I became an actualist I never had a dogged and boneheaded resistance to investigating my spiritual beliefs because I had walked the Eastern spiritual path for years and I knew experientially that the beliefs were a sham in that they did nothing but produce delusionary states and they do nothing to address the problem of eliminating the instinctual malice and sorrow that plagues humankind.
PETER: Perhaps I can just add to this in another way that might make sense to you. Whilst one can be on the path to ‘transcendence of the human drama’, or contemplate taking the path, without having a belief in a supernatural entity – as was my case – it is pertinent to take on board that the whole notion of transcendence is based on the ancient belief that the ego is the problem and that the solution is to ‘realize’ that one’s instinctual being is one’s ‘true Self’ … and this belief is a spiritual belief.
And I’ll just finish by repeating what I have written to you several times before in the interest of clearly communicating what I am saying –
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.